Tullamore DEW is one of Ireland’s most iconic whiskey brands. It’s also the second-best-selling Irish whiskey globally. With a rich and fascinating history, spanning two centuries, it’s safe to say they know a thing or two about producing high-quality spirits.
So whether or not you’re a whiskey drinker (for the record, I am not!), you’re in for a treat when you visit the Tullamore D.E.W distillery in Offaly. Construction of the state-of-the art distillery, located on the outskirts of Tullamore town, began in 2013 and it was the first grain to glass facility to be built in Ireland in over 50 years.
Tours of the distillery only began is 2022, so it’s still a relatively new attraction but one that you should add to your list. It’s a really fun and informative look behind the scenes and an opportunity to sample some of the whiskeys that have made Tullamore DEW a firm favourite around the world.
A Brief History of Tullamore DEW
The original Tullamore Distillery was established in 1829. In 1862, at the age of 14, Daniel Edmund Williams (the D.E.W. in Tullamore D.E.W.) started his apprenticeship there. He later went on to become General Manager and then owner of the distillery.
Prohibition in 1920s America resulted in a temporary suspension of distilling. A few decades later, a declining market resulted in the cessation of distilling in Tullamore by 1954. While demand increased again by the mid-1960s, distillation now took place under license at the John’s Lane Distillery in Dublin.
In 2010, Tullamore DEW became part of the William Grant & Sons family. The company began work on the new distillery and in 2014, 60 years after ceasing, distilling returned to Tullamore once again.
Highlights of the Tullamore DEW Distillery Experience
We didn’t have any idea what to expect on the distillery tour but had such a great time. The tour lasted for 1 hour and 45 minutes, so it’s a decent length but doesn’t feel too long. There’s heaps to see and do, with tastings along the way, so it’s really well done.
I won’t go into details of every single part of the tour or I’ll never finish! But these are some of the highlights of the tour that made it for us.
Welcome Irish Coffee
Let’s face it, they had me at ‘hello’…well, almost! After just a brief introduction from our guide Ellen, we followed her up two flights of stairs to a spacious room where she proceeded to make us a delicious Irish coffee. Now that’s my kind of welcome.
As we waited for our drinks we heard the origin story of Irish coffee. The popular recipe is attributed to Joe Sheridan, a head chef in Foynes Airbase in Co. Limerick who served it up to passengers in 1942. We had previously heard the same story at the Flying Boat Museum in Foynes but without one important detail. I could be wrong, but I’m pretty sure they left out the fact that it was Tullamore DEW which was used at the time. An important detail and one which helped to grow the popularity of Tullamore DEW overseas!
Sheridan later emigrated to work at the Buena Vista Cafe in San Fransico, where Tullamore DEW was exclusively used to create the perfect Irish coffees. The Buena Vista now serves up to 2,000 Irish coffees per day.
Still House Visit
After enjoying our Irish coffees, we moved to some comfy seats to learn a little about the whiskey making process. Taking us from the raw ingredients to the finished product, there was just the right amount of information to keep it interesting. After all, if it was too detailed we were in danger of nodding off after our welcome drinks!
Then came the big reveal, as the wooden panels before us parted to reveal the site where the magic happens. We were led through the Still House, feeling the heat from the massive copper stills busy creating the next batch of Tullamore DEW.
The Tully Bus
Given the distillery is so large, in order to save time and no doubt to avoid any chance of accidents, part of the tour involves a little bus trip around the grounds on the ‘Tully Bus’. Don’t ask me why I was so excited about the bus, but I was. It’s a really cute bus, ok!
On our way to the warehouses, we passed the bottling plant and Ellen advised that there was a lot of wildlife around the distillery, including pheasants. As if on queue, a pheasant darted out in front of the bus. Thankfully, our driver Alan was quick on the brake and avoided any unfortunate incident!
Maturation Warehouse & The Tullamore DEW Snug
One of the best parts of the tour was visiting one of the nine warehouses on the site. Standing beneath barrel, upon barrel, upon barrel of whiskey, and row after row, it’s a pretty impressive sight.
I didn’t get any photos, as electronics are strictly forbidden from this part of the tour. This is down to the possible fire hazard and when you are surrounded by 50,000 wooden casks, that’s pretty understandable!
However, tucked away within the warehouse there is also a custom built snug. Sitting there under the watchful eye of all the casks stacked to the ceiling around you, is a pretty unique experience.
While in the snug you get to ‘dip the dog’ and taste the whiskey straight from the cask. At this stage the alcohol percentage is an eye watering 67%. So if you’re driving home after the tour, you probably want to make do with just a whiff!
Reunited with the Tully Bus, we were then whisked back to the main building where we began our taste tasting in the blending room. As mentioned, I’m not a whiskey drinker but it was a lot of fun and I enjoyed trying a little taste of the whiskeys.
Our tasting included three varieties of Tullamore DEW whiskey; the original Tullamore D.E.W., the 12 year old Special Reserve and XO Caribbean Rum Cask Finish. We tried them neat and then with a few drops of water added too.
I’m certainly not there yet, but it’s possible that maybe, just maybe, I’ll be a whiskey drinker one day. I think I’ve got some potential!
How Much Does the Tullamore DEW Tour Cost?
At the time of our visit, the Tullamore D.E.W. Distillery Experience was €39.00 per person. To be honest, I did think it was a little steep at first.
This probably had quite a bit to do with the fact that I am not a whiskey drinker at all. I was also comparing it to other distillery tours I have done and also the Guinness Storehouse. However, as it was a birthday treat for my whiskey-loving husband, I said ‘feck it’ and booked anyway and I’m so glad I did. In the end, I enjoyed the tour just as much as he did, which was a pleasant surprise.
Is it Worth Doing the Tullamore DEW Distillery Tour?
Having done the tour, I do think it’s definitely well worth it. For starters, the tours is almost 2 hours long and fully guided. Groups are limited to 8 people, so it’s a really nice size and you gives you the opportunity to ask plenty of questions along the way.
When you also take into account the welcome Irish Coffee, and four whiskey samples (including the one in the snug) and of course our wee jaunt on the Tully Bus, it seems like a pretty fair cost.
Visit the Original Home of Tullamore DEW
While you’re in Tullamore, why not visit the original home of Tullamore D.E.W. which has been beautifully restored and reopened as a restaurant and bar. Aptly name the Old Warehouse, it is also home to the Cooper Still Cafe. Located in the heart of town, on the Grand Canal, it’s well worth checking it out while you’re in the area.